Any Questions Part One: River Carp and Tench Groundbait
Paul Garner kicks off the first 'Any Questions' in association with the team at Nash Peg One.
Q. Is it worth pre-baiting a section of river (the Thames) during the close season that I plan to fish for carp and barbel this summer? If so what would you recommend I use?
A. I haven’t fished the Thames for a number of years, but I was fortunate to have a boat on the river for a number of years and spent a lot of time on there chasing the carp, and the fishing right through the river can be absolutely fantastic. Since then, I have found that the carp and barbel on most of the big rivers respond in the same way, so you could apply what I am going to say to other rivers, such as the Severn, Trent and Great Ouse.
Both carp and barbel tend to spawn at roughly the same time, which often coincides with the start of the season, and both species often congregate at this time of year in very specific areas where the spawning habitat is optimal. For carp this will normally be where there are dense weedbeds - either backwaters, or in the largest reedbeds, whilst the barbel will look for the cleanest gravel, which may or may not be near weirs.
With nooky on their minds the chances of you being able to concentrate fish in an area by pre-baiting is pretty slim, so personally I wouldn’t bother pre-baiting through the close season, but would wait until spawning is over and the fish start to resume their summer behaviour and return to their normal haunts. This really means that I won’t pre-bait before the start of July.
Most big rivers contain many more bream than they do either carp or barbel, and if there is one species that responds to pre-baiting better than any other it is bream. Personally, if I am going carp fishing I don’t want to be catching bream all night, so I try to tailor the bait I introduce to avoid them. This is actually pretty limiting on what you can use, as pellets, boilies, sweetcorn, maggots, and maize can all be crossed off the list of possible candidates.
In fact, there are only a couple of baits that I will use if I think bream are going to be around in numbers, these are:
Hemp - Bream will eat hemp, but with nothing like with the same gusto as carp and barbel. I would base my pre-baiting around introducing a couple of pints of hemp to each swim every couple of days. You don’t need to use tons of hemp, it will take the fish a long time to root out every grain. You could try other small grains, like wheat, dari or millet, but hemp is by far the best.
Tiger nuts - Again, pretty much bream proof, a handful of tiger nuts is a must, as most of the time I will use these as the hook baits when fishing for carp, and sometimes for barbel as well. No need to over-do the amounts, half a pint is enough. Carp and barbel love tigers, and I will happily fish these on any venue, and it is surprising how they seem to have become a little unfashionable in recent years.
The other alternative if you must use boilies is to make up a batch of REALLY big baits. Both carp and barbel will take boilies of golf ball size and above, and these will cut down the number of bream you catch - to some extent. This advice all sounds a bit negative, and if you like catching lots of bream along with the odd carp and barbel, then do use smaller fishmeal-based baits, but for me, I prefer to try and specifically target each species and so prefer more selective tactics.
Q. Can you recommend a good feeder groundbait mix for tench?
A. I tend to avoid the fishmeal-based groundbait when tench fishing, unless I am fishing a venue that sees pellets day-in day-out. I don’t think that tench particularly respond to fishmeal based baits straight off, unlike bream and carp, but obviously, if there is a lot of bait going in they will soon learn to make use of it!
I prefer a vegetabl-based groundbait, something like the Fish Frenzy Talapia groundbait, which is based on crushed pellets containing a high percentage of vegetable protein. This groundbait also happens to be green, which seems to be a fashionable colour for tench groundbaits, but this has nothing to do with why I use it, in fact the green appears quite bright on the lake bed. Another benefit of this groundbait is that it can be mixed quite dry and fluffy, making it useful when fishing with a cage feeder, or slightly wetter for use with the flat method feeder.
There are some additives that tench really do seem to like. If you can stand the smell, Shellfish Sense Appeal is probably the best tench attractor I have ever come across, you only need about 4ml per kilo of groundbait, meaning a bottle goes a very long way. Much more user-friendly is the combination of 2ml of Intense Sweetner and 4ml of Scopex, probably the best all-round attractor combo ever.
Another attractor worth seeking out, and very much out of fashion is Codlivine. This is a vitamin supplement for horses that has a strong aniseed smell. You can find it in outdoor stores that sell horse supplies. Add at a rate of about 10% to your groundbait mix.
If you want to use a lot of groundbait, or are on a tight budget then why not try using molehill soil? Sieved and added to normal groundbaits, this helps them bind and creates a cloud in the water that tench find attractive. It might seem a bit old hat, but a bit of soil can liven up your mix.
I will mainly use groundbait as a carrier for maggots or casters, particularly if I want to use a flat method feeder set-up for tench. I know a couple of very successful tench anglers who rarely use any other rig than this and it can be very effective, the combination of a semi-fixed feeder and short hook length means you will turn a reasonable number of pick-ups into hooked fish.
Alternatively, I will use groundbait when the tench are getting picky and visiting a baited swim but only picking up the odd morsel of food. In this case I use the groundbait to attract the tench, with just the odd food item (such as a lobworm with the hook in it!) over the top.
With carp and specialist anglers of the calibre of Paul Garner, Tony Gibson, Alan Storey, Steve Pope, Ted Bryan, Alan Blair, Mark Barrett and Bernard Anderson – to name but a few - the Nash Peg One team has a wealth of experience covering just about every species that swims and the expertise of the whole team is on tap for everyone at FishingMagic to take advantage of in these Q and A sessions.
If you have any questions that you would like the team at Nash Peg One to answer in the next instalment then please e-mail them through to firstname.lastname@example.org
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